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Finding movie stills, posters

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on November 9, 2007
(Issue 2545, Artistic Measures)

Back in the day (yeah, yeah – you 20-somethings smirking now will be saying the same thing in about 20 years ...) if you wanted to collect Hollywood memorabilia, you had to be rich or know someone.

If your cousin worked weekends down at the Bijou, she might be able to get you the poster for your favorite movie once the next flick came to town. And if your neighbor was a reporter at the local newspaper, they might be able to get you the publicity shots the movie studios sent to the newspaper once the editors were done with them. (Although an awful lot of entertainment desks saved those photos and, later, slides – I know, because just a year ago I hauled about 30 years' worth of publicity slides out to the dumpster at the newspaper I work at.)

Nowadays, finding photos to accompany your entries on your film blog or getting a digital version of a film's poster to use as wallpaper on your Mac is as simple as knowing where to look.

Where to look

Surprisingly, the movie studios' web sites themselves are pretty useless for the general public. Most studios either have no media/press area on their site (farming out to an independent publicity outfit) or hide it behind a password-protected area. I've had to actually fax in forms in on the newspaper's letterhead and/or have my editor call the studio's in-house publicity office in order to get an account for these studios' media sections.

Which is crazy, because word of mouth remains the best advertising any movie could have – remember "The Blair Witch Project"? Putting their publicity stills and high-resolution digital posters out for general consumption would make it that much easier for movie fan sites (and there are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of them) to create a buzz about upcoming or new releases.

Fortunately, there are a ton of sites in fandom that do make high-rez copies of movie still shots and posters available for free download. is my first stop each Monday when I begin collecting high-rez stills from that week's releases to accompany the reviews in the newspaper. While the studios are pretty good about sending electronic press kits to us on CD-ROM with high-rez images there, going to a Web site and quickly grabbing the photos I want is a much more efficient use of my time than loading each film's CD-ROM into my Mac, navigating the goofy Flash menus, selecting the pictures I want and marking them for download, and then exiting said goofy Flash menu.

I'd guess that has photos for more than 90 percent of the mainstream films that come out each month, and a good number of the art house and indie flicks, too. It also has something not all the other sites do: accurate caption information for each photo, telling you who is in each scene.

When I do get stumped, I go to the Internet Movie DataBase and look up the movie with the photos I couldn't find on Once at the movie's entry page, on the left-hand navigation menu you'll find a "Photo Gallery" under a section header reading "Promotional" – but those are low-rez Web-only images. If you keep scrolling down until you get to a secion marked "External Links," there is an entry called "photographs." Clicking on that takes me to a page with links to a bunch of different sites that have publicity photos for that movie.

Not all of those links will have the high-resolution images I need for print use – but I've learned that certain sites are more likely to have the high-rez ones that others. A Swiss site called OutNow! Image Gallery is pretty reliable – all U.S. movies aren't on there, but the ones that are are generally in high-rez format.

The site is in German, and doesn't contain any caption info, but it's otherwise very solid.

CinEmpire is a little more hit or miss – a lot, perhaps most, of the photos it has are in wallpaper-size files (1,280 pixels or more), but not all of them are. Like OutNow!, there are no captions provided. Anyway, they'd be in French even if they were there.

Cinema Blend presents the photos in a medium resolution that I can use in a pinch, but they're not big enough to use for wallpaper on most monitors. On the other hand, the site is in English, so finding your way around is certainly easier than on some of the others.

If OutNow, CinEmpire and Cinema Blend aren't listed on a movie's external links photo page, then I start working through the other links provided. Sometimes you get lucky. (Interestingly, is never listed in IMDB's links pages.

In terms of the movie's promotional posters, it's kind of hit or miss. Most of these sites will provide a movie's poster, but not always.

You get stuck, there's always Yahoo or Google image searches, with the results narrowed to show only large images.

Next week: Finding movie trailers online.